Friday, May 22, 2009

gardening thoughts

Heavens to murgatroyd! I just finished the sweaty job of weeding
the front flower beds at Willow Manor. Gardening is a perfect time
for contemplation; in tune with Mother Earth, the scent of moist
soil and foliage. Don't you think a life of learning and creating are
much like gardening, always in a beautiful process of growth, death
and renewal?

My friend, Bill Stankus, blogged this week on some particular college
classes he had taken and subjects that interested him. We all wonder
at times what might have been, had we chosen a different college
major or career path. It's often difficult at age 18 to know yourself
well enough to choose an occupation for life. But, I'm curious to know
how many of us are actually still pursuing that original career we
embarked on, as idealistic young freshmen. This transformation of
learning and evolving as a person, in my opinion, should be a lifelong

I was offended recently, when someone mentioned that I had "laid
aside" my college education to raise my children. I had the good
fortune of a liberal arts education, with a major in fine arts and a
minor in psychology. The wealth of knowledge I gained in school was
just the catalyst of a lifelong metamorphosis into the person I
am today. I'm proud to say, I certainly didn't lay aside, or hide my
mind and creativity on the proverbial dusty shelf, to enjoy the
benefits of raising my family. What a repugnant thought.

Could it be, like in Frost's poem, we "take the road less traveled by",
by observing and absorbing the experiences along the
path of life, regardless of the choice? Choice is inevitable, but you
never know what your choice will mean until you have lived it to its

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost, 1920

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

artwork: Spring in the Country, Grant Wood


  1. This is one of my favourite poems - so true. Interesting post, willow - I did not go to university until I was in my late thirties - I married early and felt very frustrated by not using my brain. Luckily my husband made me continue my education - and it went on for years and I ended up with a very satisfying career in teaching. Along the way I got into various art forms, so that I really feel I had a very rounded education albeit spanning a lot of years. I think these days it is much easier for young people to hedge their bets and leave their choice of career until later in life. My grand daughter graduated two years ago and still does lots of jobs and travels all over the world - she says there is plenty of time to settle down - how I agree with her. Things were so different in my day,

  2. so well said! i chose to stay home and raise my children as well. i don't feel like i set aside anything.. or gave up anything more than missing out on some really incredible moments with my children. :)

  3. This is such a classic poem and very popular just now with some of my graduating seniors. And boy does it link up to the post I have just begun. I have written a perfect introduction for me.
    Well said, too! Growth, death, and renewal...our life as a garden. At first I thought maybe a nurse, but my love was theatre, which lead to my interest in children's theatre which lead to English education. So...tomorrow, ....I am finishing my 35th year as a teacher!

  4. Gardening & yardwork in general are so contemplative I think. As far as the education business goes: I have a couple of family members who've never let me forget that I took a masters in creative writing rather than doing something "real" like going to law school. But tho I wouldn't mind being more financially solvent, I'd still take my life over theirs. Of course, I love the poem, but I really love that piece of art work.

  5. One of my favourite, and most important for me, sayings is 'Know thyself'. To find out what one's values are, and to set goals from those is a constant learning process. That includes career choices, changes of direction and lifestyle.

    And, like the wonderful task of gardening, weeding out things that are not good and nurturing the ones that are.

    I've been gardening too today, Willow, and feel all nice and glowy from the sun and pleasantly tired! It's fun isn't it!

  6. I love gardening as much as walking to inspire free-form thinking. Driving used to do it too but now it takes too much concentration.

    I graduated with a degree in history and a minor in art history with a plan to teach. But that year, with severe budget cuts and teacher layoffs- I decided to wait on the teaching certificate. I feel that I have the best of teaching without the paperwork.

    I loved the years spent in college and like you, it only marked the beginning of a lifelong love of learning. Being a parent is part of that learning and how I parent reflects all that I have learned along the way.

    I never went back to school to get the certificate but have spent years teaching- adults to knit and design their own sweaters and working with children in the classroom to learn a little art history and create their own artwork. I've never felt that my degree was wasted although some people have asked me if I think that. I love the freedom that volunteering gives me.

  7. When I was an assistant film editor, I asked a producer how he had become a producer. At university he had followed an attractive girl into a class not his own. It was geology. He switched courses to be near her. Geology took him into oil exploration, which took him to the jungles of South America, where he became more interested in the indigenous people of those areas. He proposed to make a series of films about "Dissapearing Worlds". all because of a girl in the quad.

  8. When I first declared my major it was 'Political Science' - I had wanted to be a lawyer. . . then I changed my mind and thought it'd be cool to be a graphic artist. . . then I thought it wouldn't be so bad to be a teacher. Then I just gave up and went for General Ed for my first two years of college.

    I took a two year break from college and when I went back - I had decided on Business Administration. . . .

    I'm at least in the same field - owning my own business; although I was talking with a friend of mine, and thought where would I be if I had chosen Theater - which was a big possibility. . . great post

  9. you never know what your choice will mean until you have lived it to its fullest...

    deep wisdom willow. i would never say a life or opportunity or education would be wasted on raising children. prob the most important job there is.

  10. At age 50, I tell people that I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up. However, my life is very rich and varied with no degree to name it.
    P.S. I haven't heard "Heavens to Murgatroyd" since I was a kid!!

  11. I love gardening. I love to get my hands in the dirt and work a bed. I love to plant and nurture the gifts of nature. I enjoy all the phases of life in the garden, even the seed bearing resting stage when othes pull out the plants because they are no longer pretty, I let them stay and they return for me next year. Growth, death, renewal. Yes.

    I don't see how any education or degree is wasted just because you don't follow a certain career path. Your education was applied toward raising well rounded children who are given the tools to succeed. How is that a waste? A degree is just one step in a life of learning, applying that learning to your life whatever that turns out to be. We're supposed to stop growing, thinking, changing after we get a degree?

    I never finished college, I was too anxious to get on with life and to tell the truth, I stumbled into my avocation and life a few years later working in architectural art glass (all those art lessons all my life finally had a target). I'm still doing it. And this choice allowed me to work and be a stay at home parent since the studio was at home. It's a bumpy ride being an artist, but then I always did like roller coasters.

  12. "You will never know what the choice will mean, until you live it to its fullest..." well said!

  13. My Life has been a whole series of Life-Reinventions.With A Lot of Path Choices along the way.Yes.I Wonder Sometimes,I guess i could (A will be!)several different people had my Paths been different.....had my choices been different.The important thing is to enjoy the view whatever the course!
    Better to have lots of crossroads than just one Ringroad!

  14. Very interesting post and I, too, would have been offended, even though I didn't attend college! I've had 2 full careers and am working on my third at 67. I stayed home with my children until they of preschool age and I certainly didn't let my mind rust while I was changing diapers, preparing meals and reading them bedtime stories.

    If we're lucky, we learn early on that to continue to grow and evolve is healthy for the mind and the body and sets a good example for your children, should you have them.

    I find some of my best ideas come from a task such as gardening or anything where I'm absorbed by the use of my hands and not under pressure.

  15. Do you ever really know?

    Life is a lot like have to put your hands in the dirt and experience all the sights, smells, tastes. Some things you will treasure... and some things you will find completely abhorrent, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't experience them.

    I think that's what Robert Frost is getting at with taking the road less traveled. Some things are only experienced by getting out of your comfort zone and by being uncomfortable in your surroundings.

    Taking a path that is loaded with obstacles and things to work around is truly a pain in the butt and a real gamble. I, myself, would run right to that paved path and take EZ PASS if it were available.

    But if that gamble paid off and I missed out?

    I always being uncomfortable knowing that I should've, could've, would've but didn't.

    Peace - Rene

  16. Yes, gardening is a wonderful metaphor for LIFE.
    Taking care of things and making them grow beautiful and loved.
    I'm wild with fury at the idiots who planted new flowers two days ago by our building in the city and DID NOT WATER THEM. (I suppose I will have to do it myself and get yelled at my the UNION....)
    Yes, writing, children, and gardening don't make us pile of physical LOOT.......but what other sorts of riches.

  17. it is clear to me that only an
    socially & emotionally Unsophisticated individual,
    with a very narrow life experience path could make a remark like that.
    ever !!
    no one EVER really knows which road someone else has chosen to walk down, or which shoes they wore while walking.

    i think you rock !

  18. Willow...I would have been offended also. I took a parenting class offered by my church in Nashville when I was pregnant with Melanie.It was based on James Dobson's " Dare To Discipline" series. One thing that STUCK solid with me from that was...

    " if you fail at being a parent, no amount of success you achieve from anything else will make up for it"

    "setting aside" whatever to raise your children, is NEVER a mistake!
    Your children are your greatest achievement!

  19. Good Day Willow,

    My BA was a double in Psychology & Fine Arts. Are we cut from the same cloth? Fortunately for me I grew up surrounded by culture, and the Arts have always been, and will continue to be my passion. I only wish there was a way to make a reasonable living engaging in them or perpetuating them . This is my major frustration right now having been laid off in October. In good times and particularly in bad times, there's never enough support of The Arts.



  20. Hi Willow!No you haven't lay aside anything.Those people who are saying those things haven't learnt yet what's life is about.A piece of paper doesn't make a person.Everything you have studied back there and everything life has taught you have made you become the great person you are today.Just don't listen to those soul's vampires.Have a nice weekend!

  21. I often think of what would have happened, had I not gone into the Navy right outta high school( and not quite 18 to boot ). If I'd taken that other road Frost so spake of...

  22. Hi Willow,

    As others here have said, raising children is one of the most important jobs in life.

    And your education is not wasted, in my view. On the contrary, the knowledge you have acquired, you have now passed onto your children, and they will pass it onto their children, etc. etc.

    A waste of ones education and life? I think not.

    Take care--great blog topic.

  23. The nicest thing about a liberal arts education is that you always have interesting things to think about, no matter what you end up doing.

  24. there are many paths through life and each one is rich in adventure and learning. i must say, although i have studied (informally) many things i would never have anticipated at 18 (yoga, herbs, meditation, alternative healing etc) i think i always wanted to be a creative person in writing and/or the visual arts and back then in theatre and i still am exploring this same pathway minus theatre.

  25. The path isn't there until you've walked it.

    I find my degree in geology helps me deal with the pace of our management decision processes.

  26. the essence of my university experience for me was that i learned how to value thinking - and then how to think about thinking - and that led into who and how i am now. when i became a dad. there was tons of stuff i set aside from the university experience but the essence - well that's what i give to my children.
    a lovely and thoughtful entry in a string of lovely entries willow.

  27. I have a feeling you not only continued with your lifelong learning, but you instilled the importance of it into your children as well.

    Learning doesn't begin and end at school. Life sort of got in the way for me, and I have never had the benefit of a university education. But I have read all the classics, I enjoy and understand good music, literature, art, because I am interested in it.

    You obviously are an extremely vital person, which is obvious by your blog.

    I think we all have wondered about "the road not taken" at some point in our lives.

  28. Oh, I love that poem. Always have. I have had numerous "careers" over the years: taught in a college in VA, directed a program in sheltered workshop for the disabled, wrote grants, worked as a technical recruiter for GE, headed up a consulting firm at a pharmaceutical company and now I'm back in academia recruiting again in a different way. I think we build and grow and the only "constant" in life is that it'll all change again! I keep thinking one day I'll just work in a beautiful nursery and do much like what you were doing today, Willow. That would be nice. In fact, I had a dream last night that I had moved to Asheville NC and worked planting flowers at Biltmore estates. I'd love that! Wish it was true! LOL I love your field of flowers on your sidebar here. Lovely!

  29. yes, i do find wonderful moments of contemplation in the garden. there's something about a mindless task with bird song on the air that lets me just relax and think.

    well-said and uplifting post, willow!

  30. First, let me say that you will be sore tomorrow. Pulling weeds is a terrific workout and there is no exercise equipment needed.

    To address the insulting remark about putting aside your education - the remark is just ignorant. I have been a working mother and have raised three children. I have also paid someone for 14 years to work as caregiver. To me that seems rather stupid though necessary. You have been blessed to be able to share and inspire your children because of your education. You go girl!

  31. I feel the same way about gardening. Love that painting... who painted it??
    Ech, what a rude thing to say about setting aside your ed. to raise you kids. I'm always amazed at the way things fall out of people's mouths. Usually though... it's almost always about them and not you!

  32. Artslice, it's "Spring in the Country" by the marvelous Grant Wood.

  33. I couldn't agree more. I have never stopped my education, which is life long. I also stayed home with my children, and it was time well spent, in my opinion. Not always easy when my friends had careers, but I have never regretted my decision.

    I wonder how many people quit learning when they left college, or only spent time learning what they needed to do their job. I am always amazed when someone says they haven't read a book since college.

  34. When you write about sweaty weeding, it makes me think of Ray Bradbury's words in Dandelion Wine "Dig in the earth, delve in the soul."

    I think every moment I've lived of my life, college and all else, every day, is all a part of my being a writer today.

  35. Ah Willow - I spent thirty years of life as a wife and wage earner before I was able to return full time to the arts. Have I regrets? Some. Sure. I'd be less than honest if I said I'd do it all the same.

    Nonetheless, I am who I am. I've no idea whether life would have been better - likely it would just have been different experiences - and I would still be who I am. We live, we grow, we age - and yet the essential person we become is up to us.

    Great post - and once again I congratulate your new header design...

  36. Love the Grant Wood pic. I worked, then stayed home to raise my kids while my husband finished his Ph.D. and today is a successful neuropsychologist specializing in Traumatic Brain Injury. While he loves what he does, I never felt cheated. I did go back to school later but my family was my life. I didn't have a choice about that. I'm hardwired that way.

  37. NO ONE contributes more to the future and the world than the mom. Don't let anyone tell you you set aside something important. This was the most important thing you could do. And guess what? There is time for all the great things in life as well. (How much did the children benefit from the education?) from a friend who sometimes visits

  38. This is a thoughtful post, deceptively simple and sweet, but serious and poignant.

  39. Hello Willow,
    some one once said

    "raising children is a sacred task"

    Happy Days

  40. I'm sorry I haven't time to read all the comments - you usually have a great crop of wise words on there too - so someone may have said this. The road you took is not less travelled, it is the usual one. And it is usual to be told that you have put life on hold, that being at home is stultifying, etc etc. The paid work = real work, what you do [for mone] = what you are, equations are the normal way of seeing things. Normal, and wrong. Rant over!

  41. As it happens usually with your posts, there are so many issues I want to write about and yet, I always forget one or two.

    When to start uni? I agree with you, 18 is too young. I began uni at 17 and I knew I wanted to major in languages, English in my case, but with the benefit of hindsight, I think I would have gone for psychology, sociology or history, or the three of them.

    The paths we choose sometimes don't give us the views we crave. Tough, that's life. But when one consciously chooses a path one thinks will benefit her/him, then no one should hold that choice against that person.

    I had never read that poem (and thanks for your comment on my blog about Benedetti) and the wisdom of it is absolutely beautiful.

    Ever since I strolled into your bloggy path I always had this inner feeling that the owner of this space was a witty, intellectual and curious person. And I have never ever felt disappointed. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  42. this realy spoke to me... just when I needed it.
    Thank you

  43. Frost is one of my all time favorite poets!
    I agree that you will not know how your decisions are going to turn out until much later in life.
    Also, the goal of studying is not always to receive a piece of paper that says you studied for 4 years, I think it is the process that counts!

  44. Thank you for posting this, Willow, one of my favorite poems - ever. It is the perfect way to begin my day after morning prayers.

    And, I wholeheartedly concur that gardening is a perfect time for contemplation...for prayer and easing the ills of my day. I don't recall just now who said it, that 'one is nearest the heart of God in a garden', but it is precisely how I feel most days.

    All the best to you for a joyful weekend.

  45. P.S... HA!!! Just noticed your comment on the movie, Australia ... I completely agree! It missed the mark on so many levels...

  46. I am astounded that someone would say that you have "laid aside" your education to raise your children! I can think of no better use of an education than passing knowledge on to our children.

  47. The person who told you that you had "laid aside" my college education to raise your children had it all wrong: thank heaven your children have a mother who was ready and willing to do the job! You worked to bring up good citizens, that should earn you medals and not one single thought wasted on somebody's closed mind!

    There is no greater gift to a child than a well-educated mother's and father's love and time!

  48. I'm proud to say, I certainly didn't lay aside, or hide my mind and creativity on the proverbial dusty shelf, to enjoy the benefits of raising my family. What a repugnant thought.I couldn't have said it better myself! You are a kindred spirit.

  49. You owe no one any explanations of how or why you've lived your life ..

  50. Smiling over your Australia comment... I - too - couldn't get through it. I left the cinema after 1/2 hour, which is thirty minutes I'll never get back.

  51. I just loved this post. And it's so true--education becomes part of who you are--it would be pretty difficult to put that on a shelf!

  52. I have always loved this poem and it is ever in the back of my mind.
    Growing up in the 70s - we had "guidance" counsellors. We were set on a path that someone else deemed suited us and many of us followed it. Often it was the wrong path. Mine was a mish-mash of diverging roads all leading to the conclusion that I was on the wrong one from the start.
    Although I don't have any children, I can't imagine that there is any more rewarding path to take - giving life, nurturing it and seeing it grow and blossom - it is the ultimate gift.
    We are just fortunate that sometimes we're give enough time in our lives to seek out the other path and find what lies there.
    Your road Willow, is just opening up and what's wonderful is how you stop and enjoy all the the delights along the way.


  53. well said Willow and I totally agree with Daryl!

  54. My eyes are moist as I read your post today. Thank you for your thoughts. I agree 100%.

  55. Where or who is "murgatroyd"?

  56. I often say that I will study until the day I die, and I do believe that either raising children and staying home or going to school what matters is how you experience your choices, how you use them to grow as a person and better yourself. I know many women that are now back to school after their children left home and I always marvel at the way they experience learning at this new stage in their lives. I am an English graduate with a minor in History. I finished my degree after I had my children and truly feel it was a different kind of learning from that I experience when I was a freshman-much more intense, with a need to go the depth, to learn more for the pleasure of learning. And I am still in school and working on my writing and probably will be doing it until I stop breathing :)

  57. I've always loved this poem; in a very simple, clear way it expresses what we ALL must think from time to time. Universality must be one of the chief poetic virtues!

    Your interesting thoughts here? So often felt by me, too.

  58. Gardening is great! Love Grant Wood's painting.

  59. I think once you earn your college degree, it's yours forever. It is never laid aside! It's never a grave error to follow your heart and learn and grow your whole life. I put a decade into a career, which I loved but had nothing to do with my college major. I was a full time working mom and then a stay at home mom. All of those stages were wonderful and fulfilling in their own ways.

  60. I love gardening. The weather here has now turned into something impossible for me to withstand outside. Like winter is to you guys, so is the humid suffocating heat of the Keys to me.

  61. Things are looking good at Willow Manor!

  62. Things are looking good at Willow Manor!

  63. This is an oft quoted poem in our house and yours will be a favorite post.

    With an 18-yr-old daughter heading off to college with a double major in English and Art and a minor in Music, I have been smiling lately when she tells me she has an interest in forensic medicine (and she has the smarts and nerves for it, too). I wonder how the paths will change.

    Me? My first promise of anything resembling talent emerged in writing and art as an elementary school kid. My path has taken me everywhere BUT these two loves and now, here I am, back again but having had the BEST of ALL careers: raising my children to be incredible individuals. It doesn't happen by accident and it will NEVER be the result of something "set aside." It was a gift given to me.

  64. Lovely post as usual. Starting the post with the Grant Wood - I grew up about 15 miles from Stone City and have two reproductions still hanging in my home. You make me ashamed that I don't know their names.

    "Heavens to murgatroyd!" - haven't heard that in years. It's right up there with "Oh, golly!".

    Take care.

  65. Hi! Willow,
    Thanks, for sharing Poet Robert Frost's poem.(Because I carried it around with me...when Leah, reminded us of Poetry Day.)

    "Could it be, like in Frost's poem, we "take the road less traveled by",
    by observing and absorbing the experiences along the
    path of life, regardless of the choice? Choice is inevitable, but you
    never know what your choice will mean until you have lived it to its
    By Jove! just repeated my every...thought!

    Once again!...Willow, thanks, for sharing!
    DeeDee ;-D

  66. Hello Willow,

    I have never read this poem before although I know the phrase "the road less travelled". I really enjoyed it.

    In today's world of equality and career women (eventhough some think it still unequal) I'm sure there are those who presume that women who stayed at home didn't really get to exercise a choice. Life will always be a compromise. We just have to make the important choices as we see them.

  67. The person who left you that comment must not be a stay-at-home-mom herself, or she would realize that we're some of the most interesting people to know! We have the time to make our own schedules and read more than others. We can pursue our own interests because we have TIME!!!

    I'm into the twentieth-something year of homeschooling and I'm still learning right alongside my children. I call our learning style "Delight Directed Learning" meaning that anything that we delight in we can learn about until we've exhausted the subject or we tire of it.

    I can hold my own on almost any subject, because I listen intently when other people talk and so learn that way and also because I read voraciously. And to think that I dropped out of college in my third year to get my MRS degree magna cum laude!!!

  68. That is offensive. Mothering, fathering, and all forms of parenting, actually, are the most significant and important "careers" in existence. I never had the nerve to try!


    Nice new colors, Willow.

  69. hey girl,
    The person who told you that is an idiot.
    You are an Lifelong Learner.
    Enough said.

  70. I once had this poem written on my wall at the shop, reminding me constantly that my path will always be there, no matter which direction it should take...I just follow by the seat of my pants...still do!

    Have a safe weekend!

  71. a beautiful poem & thought provoking post! oh the paths we tread, in my early days i side stepped from the path of arty education, onto another that lead me on to the wonderful and complete journey of motherhood & all the bits & pieces inbeetween! a huge learning curve later i am stepping back on to the original path. i wouldn't have missed the detour for all the tea in china!

  72. Oh bother. People and their ridiculous opinions. Your children are lucky you were able to stay home, and doubly lucky that you had such an education to pass on to them.

    At 18, I wanted to be a graphic designer. Pffft! At 42, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

  73. i so enjoy teaching this one to my students...i always have to draw back from too much depth...i'm an English writing tutor...only...for now...

  74. Willow: we are very similar; I had also the same pursuit. Having completed 3 years of HBFA I fell in love with (gulp) a musician, well actually a Prof of Music. The whirlwind of events, a baby soon ensued and well the art degree shelved for a time until I could revive my lost art career. I really wanted to be an Art Therapist, but needed two degrees, one in nursing (I've been a caregiver for some years as well) raised three children to adulthood. So now I think I am due some me time, and am just beginning to get the feel of the personal language an artist must develop "to know the self" as Plato I am sure must have send sometime during the Neoclassical Art movement? Anyways, I am on my mount am I am charging full force up the hill to self-discovery once more. (ps I also took a psychology minor - love psychology!) Love blogging too, although I need to learn a lot more techy things to bring up to any degree of professional par with the Great Willow. Good to feel such comraderie and kinship with you dear Willow!


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)